Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The same day that I posted my top 10 of 2008 I saw the last film of the year that I really wanted to see, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. With all the Oscar fervor surrounding the picture, I had high hopes for the film. Hopes that were then tempered by my father's reaction to the film and pretty much hating it. I usually find that he and I have the same tastes in film, appreciating the classics, but fans of blockbusters and sort of campy action movies and gross out humor. For him not to like it kind of had me worried.
For my own opinion, I ended up really liking the film. Directed by the great David Fincher (of Fight Club fame) it was based of a short story by one of the 20th centuries most celebrated novelists, F. Scott Fitzgerald. It starred Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button, a man who is aging in reverse. Born as a baby, he was considered deformed, his body breaking down even as he was birthed, racked by arthritis and cataracts. Abandoned by his father at an old folks home when his mother died in childbirth and his father fearing the baby's deformity, he was raised by one of the homes housemaids. As he gets older (or younger by the measure of it, he learns how he is different and comes to have a different view of death as the people who help raise him pass out of life as he grows younger.
It was here that he meets the love of his life, a young girl named Daisy, played wonderfully by Cate Blanchett. As she grows older and he younger, this is the story of what Button does with his life and how their paths are meant to cross. The entire story is told as a flashback by Blanchett in the modern day as she lays on her death bed. We learn of the truly sad tale of heartbreak and sorrow and how two people who love each other can't be right for one another.
The film is shot perfectly. Starting off with Button's birth at the close of World War 1 and passing through the 20's, 30's and so on, there is an extraordinary commitment to maintaining the look and feel of authenticity. The clothes and expressions, the things the characters eat and drink. Fincher really keeps a tight reign on a plot that could lose a lesser director. Perfectly timed moments of comedy intersect the times of sorrow, and Pitt and Blanchett have great chemistry. Cate as the world wise girl who isn't afraid of living her life, and Pitt as the world traveled man who doesn't wasn't his condition to burden anyone.
The film is long at almost 3 hours, but it moves quickly. I never felt dragged down or that the pace was slow despite the movie not really containing any action. You are compelled by the character and the pathos on screen. The special effects to age and youthen the actors are some of the best jobs I have ever seen, a mixture of CGI and prosthetics that is really convincing.
Truly I think next to Fight Club that this is Pitt's best film and if it wasn't for Mickey Rourke's performance in The Wrestler, I think he would be a shoo-in for the Oscar. Cate is certainly deserving of a nomination despite the snub. She plays the ages of her character better than Pitt even, from youthful ballerina to love lorne mother.
I can recommend this movie. Its not the kind of movie you go to to feel good, but rather the kind you go to see remember why they make movie. Its both an epic tale of a man's life journey, and a very small film about the romance between two people. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, directed by David Fincher. Go check it out.
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